Of the 374 turtles verified from April 30 to June 11,
a total of 312 stranded turtles were found dead,
28 stranded alive. Four of those subsequently died.
Deepwater Horizon Incident, Gulf of Mexico
24 Hour Trajectory Map: Jump down to Current Trajectory Maps on this page for full-sized versions.
As the nation’s leading scientific resource for oil spills, NOAA has been on the scene of the BP oil spill from the start, providing coordinated scientific weather and biological response services to federal, state and local organizations. More
Situation: June 12, 2010
(from my last post brought forward)
So here is (below) the satellite photo from 06-09-10 cropped and contrast heightened from the original true color at MODIS / NASA –
And this one is from 06-11-10, also cropped and contrast enhanced real color
My Note –
I took the NASA photo of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill taken on 06-09-10 and enhanced the saturation, the hue and contrast a little to see what it shows and this is what resulted. Very interesting.
But, look what it was yesterday – when the satellite they are offering on the site for MODIS real time “rapidfire” site shows this – I enhanced and cropped this one also –
This one doesn’t show how much farther east or south that the spill has covered and it looks like the entire well emitting the spill has moved. There is no longer a plume extending from the source although that is very unlikely since we can all see the continuing thrust of crude oil and methane coming from the well in the live video feeds. And, there is still oil coming into the marshes and other significant coastal areas. But, in the above photo it looks like the entire mass has strengthened, deepened and mover east as a block.
Maybe I’m looking at clouds, but I don’t think that’s it.
There is also the evidence above that the oil is in the intercoastal waterways as noted in news stories yesterday.
I did a little different version – here by enhancing the colors by saturation.
(the altered color versions – I cropped the original to see just the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and then enhanced the contrast, hue and saturation of colors to strengthen them – which shows very interesting things about it – the original satellite photos including whatever most recent ones can be found above or over at ESA MERIS or at MODIS NASA, my note)
Water enters the Caribbean Sea from the southeast and literally piles up inside the basin. It moves northwest in a poorly defined and highly variable stream called the Caribbean Current. It flows out through channels between islands in the north. It is forced into the Gulf of Mexico through a narrow and fairly shallow channel called the Yucatan Strait, which separates Mexico and Cuba. Here, it is called the Yucatan Current. Currents in this channel can be fierce. They are the reason that scuba divers in Cozumel, an island off the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, do “drift dives.” That is, instead of trying to stay in one spot, a nearly impossible task in ripping, 2-knot currents, divers descent in one spot, drift with the current, and pop up in another, hoping that their dive boat was able to keep up with them.
This is the area that gives birth to the well-defined current system that eventually becomes the Gulf Stream. The Gulf of Mexico is much like the Caribbean, except that it has only one entrance, the Yucatan Strait, and one exit, the Florida Strait. The Yucatan Current goes as far north as it can before experiencing too much resistance from the water already in the Gulf. Then it turns right, toward the exit. The turn gives this stretch of the stream its name–the Loop Current. It is almost always in the eastern Gulf, but can make the turn anywhere from just north of the Yucatan Strait itself to very near the continental shelf south of Mobile, Alabama.
The water in the Loop Current exits the Gulf of Mexico through the Florida Strait between Florida and Cuba, where it is known as the Florida Current. It then passes between southeast Florida and the Bahamas and changes its name again, becoming the mighty Gulf Stream.
Back in the Gulf of Mexico, the Loop Current itself seldom drifts into the western half of the basin, but its influence is extensive in this enormous cul-de-sac. Anywhere along the main path that the stream meanders a little too much to the right, eddies are pinched off, like a giant, unstable bubble that splits in two. Spinning clockwise at 2 or 3 mi an hour, some eddies are more than 100 mi in diameter. They carry their warm water westward over several months, strongly affecting currents in the western Gulf, but eventually lose steam and break apart when they hit the continental shelf off Texas or Mexico. Three or four such eddies may exist in the Gulf at any one time. Oil companies operating offshore keep a close eye on them, even naming them (I always thought “Nelson Eddy” was a good one). Sometimes they even have to stop operations as they pass, for fear that high currents might cause the failure of critical production or safety equipment.
Science Forum – Gulf of Mexico – 2008http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/about/pdfs/se_gom.pdf
Today, these buttes and mesas and coral reefs make up dozens of seafloor habitat islands encircling the Gulf from the Campeche Banks to the Florida Keys. They lay an average of 70 miles from today’s shoreline in depths averaging 200 to 300 feet — much like a bathtub ring left by former sea levels. Each feature is relatively small, ranging in size from one-fifth of a square mile to 460 square miles. The average size of the habitat islands is probably on the order of twenty square miles, with their combined area about one-third smaller than that of Mississippi Sound, and less than one-fifth of one percent of the Gulf of Mexico’s area.
While small, these habitat islands show astonishing biological productivity, owing to the structure each provides, to summits at or above the penetration of useful sunlight, and to proximity to land and continental nutrient supplies. But two attributes are even more important for the islands’ evolutionary and ecological distinction — their connection through the ages, and their stepping-stone locations in the Gulf of Mexico’s major patterns of ocean circulation. For thousands of years until now, they have all endured together as refugia, feeding and breeding grounds, and epicenters of productivity. They have been connected in time.
Their locations are of paramount significance for their roles as reservoirs, springboards, corridors, and destinations of marine life, including the Caribbean plants and animals swept into the Gulf through the Yucatan Strait.
The first segment of the Islands in the Stream expedition focused on the Gulf of Mexico, a region heavily influenced by gyres that disperse animals and plants over great distances. Click image for larger view.
My Note –
This one above – yesterday the reason I found some of the things about the Deepwater Horizon BP Macondo Prospect oil field was because when I was looking for what the projections of yield for the oil wells there – I stumbled on the other – however, on looking at this entry above – it is evident that there are agency tools used for verifying processes to know how much oil is coming from the wells to facilitate royalties that are due or something. Very interesting.
I was thinking about the period of time before the well exploded at Deepwater Horizon / Macondo – when they were selling it to investors, shareholders, public, government or press, in financial press particularly – that BP would’ve had a pretty good idea of the extent of the yield they were expecting in barrels of oil per day which they probably stated in numerous public places and in their internal documents to the shareholders and board of directors to tell about the find.
Was that yield expected to be 200,000 barrels a day and now that well is gushing wide open without hindrance?
I’ll keep looking to find it but I bet they had to tell the MMS and Department of Interior Bureau of Land Management what they expected the yield to be.
Water Data >>
The water samples collected June 3, 2010 along the Gulf coast did not reveal elevated levels of chemicals usually found in oil.
Surface water results collected on May 21, 2010 at 11 stations along the coast of Louisiana were measured for two of the chemicals associated with dispersants (2-Butoxyethanol and 2-Ethylhexyl Alcohol) but did not detect either one.
Sediment Data >>
The sediment samples collected through June 1, 2010 along the Gulf coast did not reveal elevated levels of chemicals usually found in oil.
Air Data >>
EPA’s air monitoring conducted through June 10, 2010, has found that air quality levels for ozone and particulates are normal on the Gulf coastline for this time of year.
EPA has observed odor-causing pollutants associated with petroleum products along the coastline at low levels. Some of these chemicals may cause short-lived effects like headache, eye, nose and throat irritation, or nausea. People may be able to smell some of these chemicals at levels well below those that would cause short-term health problems.
My Note –
Except that these short-lived effects – and the long-term effects that are known from these chemicals are being reported among people working out in the ocean around the spill, involved in the cleanup and in communities along the shore. EPA is not testing for the constituents that make people sick – they are testing for ozone – which isn’t the problem and some level of particulate matter which may not include the higher levels of sooty carbons from the burnoffs that are being done. They have decided what tests to do and they are using information from ten days ago when the spill was farther from the coast – to tell people what might affect them today. It is bullshit.
And, people are getting sick from this petroleum and the toxic chemical dispersants which have more than the two chemicals they used tests to determine – finding none in the samples. Both of the chemicals they were testing for are air-borne volatiles / aromatics – they disperse into the air before that sample can be tested and lodge in people’s lungs long before the EPA will ever get a test done.
I expect so much more from the EPA than this. They are supposed to be on our side and on the side of safety and good health, not the oil industry. It does not help anyone to lie to them when decisions must be made immediately to protect their health and well-being.
In areas of the western Gulf of Mexico without eddies, circulation is influenced mostly by wind and rivers. These currents are not nearly as strong as within or near the eddies, but they do affect life in the Gulf. In the southwest Gulf, circulation generally proceeds from the Yucatan Strait westward, then north along the western boundary of the basin. Meanwhile, most of the water exiting the Mississippi River, along with oceanic water already in the northwest Gulf, heads west along the Louisiana coast toward Texas. When this water collides with water arriving from Mexico, generally somewhere between Corpus Christi and Galveston, it shoots eastward along the outer continental shelf as the “Texas Current.”
Circulation in the eastern Gulf is also affected by the Loop Current. Countercurrents and semi-permanent eddies are spun up by the Loop Current, presenting some interesting possibilities for the movement of creatures up and down Florida’s western continental shelf. South of the Florida Keys, a counterclockwise eddy known as the Portales Gyre spins persistently on the north side of the Florida Current. This feature may allow larvae from the southern end of the Keys, or from the main stream itself, to become entrained and deposited on the shallow coral reefs farther north.
Map showing current patterns throughout the Florida Keys. Note how clockwise and counterclockwise gyres exist shoreward of the Florida Current. These tend to carry larvae and spores from place to place throughout the region. Knowing where parent stocks are located and understanding how currents transport their young allow resource managers to protect important areas before they become overharvested. Click image for larger view.
Similar phenomena exist all along the route of this great stream. Though the names may change along the way, the Yucatan Current, the Loop Current, the Florida Current, the Gulf Stream, and all of the countercurrents and eddies they spawn carry with them the larvae and spores of tropical species from Belize, Mexico and other Caribbean locales.
Ocean currents cast plant spores, animal larvae, and even adult creatures over huge expanses, sometimes between distant, isolated islands. Currents are the ocean’s version of the breezes that disperse the seeds of dandelions and maples, and the spores of mushrooms. They are the “liquid wind” that supplies and replenishes habitats of every kind in the ocean realm.
To learn more:
For some great images of the whereabouts of satellite-tracked drifting buoys in the region, go to the NOAA Drifter Buoy Web site.
This page provides links to hundreds of images and videos of the living ocean, according to the following categories. Click on any image to view the entire collection.
Vertebrates: Fish / Skates and Eels / Sharks / Marine Mammals
Seafloor: Geologic features / Habitat / Bacterial Mats / Hydrates
Oil spill response and cleanup workers may be exposed to many different chemical, physical, biological, and psychological hazards. These hazards vary depending on the type and location of the oil spill, type and stage of response, degree of coordination between entities involved in response and recovery, and the workers’ specific tasks. Therefore, occupational and environmental hazards need to be identified, assessed, and monitored in each oil spill response.
Chemical exposures may include chemical dispersants, weathered crude oil, benzene and other volatile organic compounds, oil mist, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and diesel fumes. Physical hazards may include ergonomic hazards, excessive noise levels, sun exposure and heat stress. Injuries may occur due to slips, trips, and falls on slippery or uneven walking and working surfaces. Other safety hazards are associated with the use of tools, equipment, machinery, and vehicles. Biological hazards include possible exposure to biting or venomous insects or other animals. Psychological hazards may include witnessing traumatic injuries or death, inability to help affected wildlife, and fatigue.
Reducing Occupational Exposures while Working with
Dispersants During the Gulf Oil Spill Response
Dispersants are being used in the Gulf of Mexico response to remove oil from the surface of water where it can be especially harmful to the environment. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has prepared this document to guide workers involved in these efforts on ways to protect themselves from potential exposures. This fact sheet will be updated as new information on the types of dispersants being used in the response is received.
Dispersants are usually applied directly to the spilled oil by spraying from an airplane, helicopter, or vessel. Although dispersants are manufactured by many companies and their ingredients may differ, most contain a detergent and a solvent. The solvent allows the detergent to be applied. The detergent helps to break up the oil on the water surface into very small drops. These tiny oil drops are then able to easily mix with the water and be diluted.
Based on the information provided to NIOSH, two dispersants are currently being used for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill response. These dispersants are COREXIT® EC9527A and COREXIT 9500 made by the Nalco Company in Naperville, Illinois. Both products contain 10‐30% sulfonic acid salt (detergent) and 1‐5% propylene glycol, which are regarded as non‐hazardous substances. In addition, COREXIT EC9527A contains between 30‐60% of 2‐butoxyethanol (solvent) and COREXIT 9500 contains between 10‐30% of petroleum distillates (solvent).
2‐butoxyethanol, also called butyl cellosolve, is a widely used cleaning agent. The potential human health effects of 2‐butoxyethanol have been studied.
Dispersants containing 2butoxyethanol may irritate the skin. 2‐butoxyethanol vapors or mists can cause respiratory irritation such as coughing. Several occupational exposure limits (OELs) have been established for 2‐butoxyethanol. The legally enforceable OEL in the United States is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL). For airborne 2butoxyethanol
the OSHA PEL is 50 parts per million (ppm) for up to a full work shift.
The NIOSH Recommended Exposure Limit (REL) for 2‐butoxyethanol is 5 ppm, also for up to a full work shift. The NIOSH REL is intended to minimize potential long‐term health effects to workers, primarily hemolysis of red blood cells (RBCs). Hemolysis of RBCs has been found in animals exposed to 2‐butoxyethanol, but recent data suggests that human RBCs are less susceptible to these effects. Both the OSHA PEL and NIOSH REL contain guidance to minimize skin contact with 2‐butoxyethanol.
Petroleum distillates are a colorless liquid with a gasoline‐or kerosene‐like odor. They are composed of a mixture of paraffins (C5 to C13) that may contain a small amount of aromatic hydrocarbons. Because dispersants containing petroleum distillates are sprayed and generate mists, OELs for mineral oil mist are applicable. Exposure to oil mist can cause irritation to the eyes, skin, or respiratory tract.
The OSHA PEL and NIOSH REL for mineral oil mist are 5 mg/m3 up to a full workshift. NIOSH also specifies a short‐term exposure limit for oil mist of 10 mg/m3, which is the average amount of oil mist a worker may be exposed to over 15 minutes without experiencing health effects. NIOSH also recommends preventing skin contact with oil mist.
To prevent harmful respiratory and dermal health effects NIOSH recommends reducing worker exposures to 2‐butoxyethanol, petroleum distillates and similar cleaning agents in dispersants. Workers can be protected by taking the following steps:
Mix and load dispersants in well ventilated areas.
Use automated spraying systems to apply dispersants when available.
Remain upwind of the mists that are generated if spray systems are manned.
Wear nitrile gloves during mixing, loading, or spraying of dispersants to prevent skin irritation.
Wear protective eyewear when mixing, loading, or spraying dispersants.
Wash hands and any other body parts exposed to dispersants thoroughly with soap and water.
If personal air monitoring indicates the above steps are not effective at reducing exposures below applicable OELs, then respiratory protection would be needed. Respirators should be used as part of a comprehensive respiratory protection program that includes proper selection, training, and maintenance.
The NIOSH respirator topic page at http://www.cdc.gov/NIOSH/NPPTL/TOPICS/RESPIRATORS/ provides information for safety and health officers who are designated to establish and conduct such programs.
For more information on oil dispersants:
NOAA Dispersants: A Guided Tour:
http://response.restoration.noaa.gov/topic_subtopic_entry.php?RECORD_KEY%28entry_subto pic_topic%29=entry_id,subtopic_id,topic_id&entry_id(entry_subtopic_topic)=155&subtopic_id( entry_subtopic_topic)=8&topic_id(entry_subtopic_topic)=1
For more information on 2‐butoxyethanol:
NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards:
NIOSH Topic Page on 2‐butoxyethanol:
New Jersey Hazardous Substance Fact Sheet on 2‐butoxyethanol:
You have the right to a safe workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) was passed to prevent workers from being killed or seriously harmed at work. The law requires that employers provide their employees with working conditions that are free of known dangers. OSHA sets and enforces protective workplace safety and health standards. OSHA also provides information, training and assistance to workers and employers. Workers may file a complaint to have OSHA inspect their workplace if they
believe that their employer is not following OSHA standards or there are serious hazards. Contact OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) if you have questions or want to file a complaint. We will keep your information confidential. We are here to help you.
For a comprehensive list of compliance requirements of OSHA standards or regulations, refer to Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
(My Note – but these do not include respirators despite petroleum having the same dangers as sniffing gasoline or kerosene – including headaches, brain damage, liver damage, lung damage, respiratory irritation and air passageways inflammation, throat irritation, eye irritation and can cause blindness, kidney damage, nausea, hallucinations, irritability, skin damage, hives or dermatitis, skin irritation, nasal irritation, coughing, gagging, throwing up, disorientation, and disorders of the blood. And the reason that these respirators are not being required even where workers are at the level of high concentrations of petroleum fumes and dispersant fumes working right over the areas where the oil spill is sitting around their boats or where they are being required to get even closer by leaning over to place booms or clean oil out of the marshes with paper towels – with the workers’ faces within a few inches of the oily surface – is because it would look bad and that might cause “hysteria” in the public.)
My Note –
Look up gasoline sniffing which was a way kids were getting high – there is a wealth of information about what that causes in health damage. There is no difference with sniffing petroleum that gasoline is made from – except that it is more dangerous to health in small quantities even faster and more exponentially because it contains all of what is in gasoline, all of what is in kerosene, all of what is in jet fuel, all of what is in diesel fuel and motor oils, all of what is in a multitude of “petroleum distillates” all in the same place in high concentrations at once.
That there are no respirators being given to protect people’s eyes and bodies from being exposed to breathing in these fumes is intolerable and those effects will last forever. The short term exposure will be offered some kind of drugs to deal with symptoms, then the long term damage will be there in the “soft systems” of the body of workers including in the blood, in the soft tissue, in the cells of the body, in the liver, in the lining of the stomach and esophagus and lungs, in the kidneys and in the brain. Don’t believe me if you don’t want – look it up – what is known results of intentional sniffing of gasoline, diesel and kerosene and products that contain petroleum distillates, benzene and whatnot. There’s no way this is any less so – it is more.
Feb 12, 2009 … The potential dangers of inhaling gasoline vapors include limb spasms and even fatal cardiac arrhythmia.
When sniffing gas, the gas kills off the brain cells and the gas sniffer will eventually have dead spots in the brain, called brain holes by physicians. …
March 4, 2001
An Epidemic of Gas Sniffing Decimates Arctic Indian Tribe
By MARY ROGAN Photographs by ARLENE GOTTFRIED
Late last fall, in a remote village in the north of Labrador, native leaders took the extraordinary step of asking the government to take their children away. “The safety of these children is the paramount issue,” explained Paul Rich, Innu tribal chief, in a statement to the provincial government requesting the removal of nearly two dozen of the village’s children. “The ongoing situation is drastic, and we need to take drastic measures,” the plea continued. “We insist that these children be taken into care immediately.”
The children, residents of the village of Sheshatshiu, where 1,200 of the 2,000 members of Labrador’s Innu Nation live, are addicted to sniffing gasoline. On most days before Rich’s plea, they would stagger along the desolate gravel roads, beginning at dusk, sniffing gas from garbage bags and making their way to a camp deep in the woods outside of town. There, in groups as large as 40 or 50, they’d sniff gas until dawn. As the light broke through the trees, they’d shuffle through subzero temperatures toward home or the detox center in town, where they’d sleep off the effects of the gas. Some would vomit or pass out, and according to local health workers, several had become brain-damaged from the gas. In the past year, one 11-year-old boy died after setting himself on fire, and half a dozen others were severely burned after accidentally going up in flames.
The Innu trace their problems with poverty and substance abuse to government relocations that forced them to give up their nomadic way of life. They also attribute their current state to the chronic physical and sexual abuse their children suffered when they were forced to attend Christian residential schools from the 1950’s through the 1970’s. Today, more than half the 300 children in Sheshatshiu between the ages of 5 and 14 have sniffed gasoline, and at least 20 percent are regular users. It is a community where half of the adults are addicted to alcohol, 42 percent have thought actively about killing themselves and 28 percent have attempted suicide.
In Davis Inlet, the other Innu community in Labrador, more than 200 miles north of Sheshatshiu, the statistics are even grimmer. Ninety of the 154 Innu children there are chronic gas sniffers, and children as young as 6 have sniffed gas at least once. The London-based human rights group Survival International calls the Innu, whose suicide rate is 13 times as high as that of the rest of Canada, “the most suicide-ridden people in the world.”
The provincial government of Newfoundland, which governs Labrador, responded swiftly to Rich’s request. Three days after the plea, on Nov. 20, government social workers were flown in to Sheshatshiu to assess the gas-addicted kids. With help from Innu community workers, social workers went door to door talking to parents about the plan to take their children from them and assuring them they would be taken to a place where they would be cared for. “Most of the parents understood what was happening and agreed with our decision,” explained Paul Rich. “There were a few who didn’t. But there was nothing else we could do. If the parents can’t take care of these kids, we can’t leave them in the cold to sniff and die.” On Nov. 21, anxious parents huddled in the dark outside the town’s alcohol-treatment center, waiting for a bus that would take 21 of the most seriously addicted children to a military base in Goose Bay, 25 miles down the road. Inside, the children were distracted with treats of soda and chips and the promise of pizza once they got to Goose Bay. Peter Penashue, the president of the Innu Nation, was there, talking with parents and telling them that everything was going to be O.K. “I looked at the kids and thought, We’ve come a long way in 50 years to fall this far,” he would tell me later. “The sadness overwhelmed me.”
When the bus arrived around 7 p.m., the children were taken out one at a time so that they wouldn’t run off. As it pulled away, they smiled and waved out the windows like Fresh Air Fund kids leaving the city for a summer in the Catskills.
In Goose Bay, they were held in a barracks where half a dozen social workers cared for them. But beyond helping the children detoxify, the government has made it clear it has no long-term solution for them if they return to their ravaged community. Marilyn McCormack, the provincial director for Child, Youth and Family Services, says that in her 23 years as a social worker, the plight of the children of Sheshatshiu is among the worst she has ever seen.
At first, the children were agitated and nauseated coming off the gas, and social workers could do little beyond providing the basics for them: food, clothing, lots of juice to satisfy the intense thirst that was a symptom of their detoxing. When they began to talk, what they said was hair-raising. They described beatings and sexual abuse at the hands of their relatives. They talked about wondering each day whether they would get dinner at night, about seeing their parents get drunk and beat each other, about witnessing suicides and friends setting themselves on fire. They spoke in monotones, and it’s this deadness that McCormack found especially horrifying. “My children couldn’t survive what these children have survived,” she said. “I don’t know if I could survive. And yet they have so little expectation that anything will change.”
Of the 21 children taken from Sheshatshiu in late November, 19 are still in the care of the government, and they are expected to be moved into foster homes or alternate living arrangements. Two of them have returned to Sheshatshiu.
n Davis Inlet, the transfer of gas-addicted children to the authorities has been considerably more difficult. Unlike Paul Rich in Sheshatshiu, Simeon Tshakapesh, the chief in Davis Inlet, has insisted on negotiating with the government before handing over the children. Tshakapesh has been accused by individuals in the government and in the Innu community of holding the children hostage to larger Innu demands — requesting more money for Innu social services and demanding that treatment programs be run by Innu counselors who will emphasize native culture. One government official who insisted on anonymity said that the Innu in Davis Inlet also requested a guarantee that if doctors discovered the children had been sexually abused, no charges would be brought against the parents.
The degradation of the lives in Davis Inlet is impossible to exaggerate. There are about 100 houses there that are little more than shacks, their doors torn from the hinges and windows smashed. Several snowmobiles, from which children often steal gas, appear to have been set on fire, and outside of every house are mountains of garbage that have been tossed out of windows. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police office, at the foot of the village, is home to three officers, who, because of the stress of being here, work two-week rotations and then fly out for two weeks.
The R.C.M.P. officers told me I wouldn’t have to go far to find children sniffing gas. They’re easy to spot, one of them said, because they don’t put their arms in the sleeves of their coats. They hug the bags close to their chests and draw the fumes up through the collars of their jackets. The officers also said that sniffing gas is not illegal in Davis Inlet, so they are not allowed to take the bags away from the children. “All we can do is put them out when they set themselves on fire,” one officer added.
Outside, about 200 yards from the police office, the road was full of armless zombies. Their sleeves swung loosely at their sides, and their chins were tucked tight to their chests. No one looked to be more than 10 years old. I expected they would run away from a stranger, but they approached me eagerly. When I asked the smallest boy if he was sniffing gas, he laughed and said, “Yeah.” The air was saturated with the smell of gasoline, and the children shuffled along in large groups and in lonely pairs. When they spotted the photographer who was traveling with me, they laughed and pushed one another aside to get into the frame, shrieking: “Take my picture, I sniff gas. Take my picture, I sniff gas.”
In mid-December, the federal government reached an agreement with the Innu of Davis Inlet. In return for the construction of a detox center in Labrador and a continued commitment to restoring Innu culture, social workers could fly in before the end of the month to assess the situation, and the government could take the gas-addicted children to a facility in St. John’s, Newfoundland, at the beginning of the new year.
On Jan. 9, 16 of the community’s most seriously gas-addicted children, ranging in age from 10 to 18, were flown to St. John’s.
To date, 40 children have been removed from the town and put into treatment. Of the addicted children still in Davis Inlet, it’s unclear what, if anything, will be done for them. At the time I write this, the temperature has dipped to minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and there are five feet of snow on the ground. The police officers are taking turns patrolling all day and night, trying to keep the gas-sniffing children from freezing to death.
Mary Rogan is a writer who lives in Toronto.
Inhalant abuse, commonly called huffing, is the purposeful inhalation of chemical …. Brain damage may result in personality changes, diminished cognitive …
Damage of the brain plus other internal organs may be caused due to huffing including the heart, liver, kidneys, and lungs. Brain damage can result in the …
– Jun 2Brain damage is typically seen with chronic long term use as opposed to short term exposure. Hypoxia can occur when inhalant users are huffing from a …
Inhalant abuse: Is your child at risk?
Would you know if your teen were huffing? Consider the tell-tale signs of inhalant abuse — and what you can do to prevent it.
What’s so dangerous about a can of spray paint or deodorant? Plenty. Huffing these and other common household products can provide a quick high. As harmless as it may seem to kids, the risks of huffing and other types of inhalant abuse are real — and potentially lethal.
What are inhalants?
Many ordinary household products can serve as inhalants, including:
- Hair spray
- Room deodorizer
- Nonstick cooking spray
- Cleaning fluids
- Spray paint
- Paint thinner
What does it mean to huff an inhalant?
Huffing is sometimes used as a generic term for any type of inhalant abuse. Specifically, however, there are various ways to abuse inhalants:
- Huffing. To huff an inhalant, you soak a rag in an inhalant and press the rag to your mouth.
- Sniffing. To sniff an inhalant, you sniff or snort fumes from an aerosol container. You may even spray an aerosol product directly into your nose or mouth.
- Bagging. To bag an inhalant, you inhale fumes from a product sprayed or poured into a plastic or paper bag.
At first, huffing, sniffing or bagging causes a sense of euphoria. Abusing the inhalant repeatedly over several hours can prolong or intensify the high. For many kids, inhalants provide a cheap and accessible alternative to alcohol — and it may happen more often than you think. In the United States alone, nearly 10 percent of adolescents ages 12 to 17 have used inhalants at some point, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
What are the risks of inhalant abuse?
The initial euphoria of huffing, sniffing or bagging may be followed by dizziness, slurred speech, and loss of coordination, inhibition and control. Some kids become agitated or irritable. Hallucinations and delusions are possible.
If an inhalant causes the heart to begin working too hard, a rapid, irregular heartbeat (dysrhythmia) may trigger lethal heart failure — even for first-time inhalers. Chronic inhalant abuse can cause weakness, fatigue, and serious liver and kidney damage. Permanent brain damage and hearing loss are possible as well.
Other devastating effects of inhalant abuse may include:
- Suffocation, when inhalants displace oxygen in the lungs
- Loss of consciousness
What are the warning signs of inhalant abuse?
Inhalant abuse can be easy to conceal. Look for these warning signs:
- Hidden rags, clothes or empty containers of products that may be abused
- Chemical odors on breath or clothing
- Paint or other stains on face, hands or clothing
- Slurred or incoherent speech
- Lack of coordination
If your child has been abusing inhalants for some time, withdrawal symptoms — sleep disturbances, irritability, nausea, vomiting, sweating, rapid heartbeat, hallucinations or delusions — are possible.
Sniffing gasoline. 11/8/05. The effects on the heart. The heart muscle is affected so that contractions get intense and stronger in effort than normal and …
Nov 24, 2005 … Petrol sniffing is a major source of illness, death and social dysfunction … These effects can last up to an hour, and longer if they keep sniffing. … has been replaced by fuel that you can’t sniff like Aviation gas …
Apr 27, 2005 … Initial effects of gas sniffing include hallucinations, euphoria, lethargy, loss of appetite, slurred speech and blurred vision, …
The products to be aware of include: butane gas cigarette lighter refills, … Sniffing solvents may cause intoxication similar to the effects of alcohol. …
http://www.thesite.org/…/drugsafety/…/solventabuse – United Kingdom
Organic solvents, such as gasoline, benzene, and related chemical substances, are toxic when inhaled for lengthy periods in unventilated areas, such as some industrial settings. Brief inhalation of these and similar substances can also produce many of the effects of alcohol intoxication and, sometimes, a hallucinogen-like “trip.” The best known example is glue-sniffing, which involves inhaling the organic solvents found in “hobby glue,” mainly toluene.
My Note –
I just thought this part is interesting to note although it is not exactly what I was trying to find –
Dr. Nagle cites several references to nitrous-oxide intoxication in American medical publications of the early 1800s. There are also nineteenth-century American references to the use of nitrous oxide by students, indicating that N20 sniffing–– for its “exhilarating” effects 3 –– was endemic among American students. One young American medical student, Gardner Quincy Colton, decided–– like Sir Humphrey Davy–– that nitrous oxide might be profitably marketed in competition with alcohol as a recreational drug; when his first public demonstration of the gas netted him $535, he quit medical school and went into the nitrous-oxide business. An advertisement for his nitrous-oxide demonstration in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1844 read as follows:
A Grand Exhibition of the effects produced by inhaling Nitrous Oxide, Exhilarating or Laughing Gas! will be given at Union Hall this (Tuesday) Evening, Dec. 10th, 1844.
Forty gallons of Gas will be prepared and administered to all in the audience who desire to inhale it.
Twelve Young Men have volunteered to inhale the Gas, to commence the entertainment.
Eight Strong Men are engaged to occupy the front seats to protect those under the influence of the Gas from injuring themselves or others. This course is adopted that no apprehension of danger may be entertained. Probably no one will attempt to fight.
The effect of the Gas is to make those who inhale it either Laugh, Sing, Dance, Speak or Fight, and so forth, according to the leading trait of their character. They seem to retain consciousness enough not to say or do that which they would have occasion to regret.
N.B.–– The Gas will be administered only to gentlemen of the first respectability. The object is to make the entertainment in every respect a genteel affair. * 4
* The twenty-five-cent admission charge included a dose of N2O.
Among those who attended Colton’s Hartford demonstration was a young dentist, Horace Wells, who was particularly impressed when one of the nitrous-oxide sniffers tripped and fell to the ground, gashing his leg in the process. To the victim’s own astonishment, the wound was unaccompanied by pain. Wells questioned the young man closely about this–– and was so impressed by the absence of pain that the next day he had Colton pull one of his teeth under nitrous-oxide anesthesia. Feeling no pain, Wells exclaimed, “A new era in tooth-pulling!” Thereafter he used nitrous oxide on several patients in his Hartford dental practice–– and a few weeks later, on January 10, 1845, he demonstrated the use of nitrous oxide during surgery at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Unfortunately, the patient came out of the anesthesia too soon and screamed in pain; Wells was laughed out of the hospital. 5 Despite this unfortunate inaugural, the use of N2O as an anesthetic spread, and the gas is in common use today for the reduction of pain during tooth extractions and other dental procedures, during childbirth, and (in association with other more potent and longer-acting anesthetics) during surgery. 6
Other organic solvents. These include a broad range of chemicals, many of them secured through the distillation of petroleum. When their vapors are inhaled, these can produce intoxication resembling alcoholic drunkenness–– and in some cases effects resembling those of a short hallucinogenic trip. Many, such as gasoline, are highly flammable and even explosive.
A wide variety of common household products contain these organic solvents, whose rapid evaporation speeds drying–– for example, paint thinners, lacquers, enamels, varnishes, varnish removers, glues and cements, cigarette lighter fluids, charcoal lighter fluids, fingernail polishes and polish removers, spot removers, and other dry-cleaning products.
The effects of inhaling gasoline fumes, Dr. Ewart A. Swinyard of the University of Utah College of Medicine points out in Goodman and Gilman’s textbook (1970), can be similar to those of drinking an alcoholic beverage. “The signs and symptoms include incoordination, restlessness, excitement, confusion, disorientation, ataxia, delirium, and, finally, coma that may last for a few hours to several days.” Most gasoline sniffers stop long before the severer symptoms set in, of course, just as most alcohol drinkers stop before they pass out cold. Repeated inhalation of gasoline fumes, Dr. Swinyard adds, “induces dizziness, giddiness, a ‘butterfly feeling,’ and hallucinations. If the desired end point is exceeded, unconsciousness results.” Dr. Swinyard adds that “prodromal symptoms such as headache, blurred vision, vertigo, ataxia, tinnitus, nausea, anorexia, and weakness are not uncommon” with low concentrations of gasoline fumes; and that chronic exposure to gasoline fumes may produce “muscular weakness, listlessness, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and weight loss” along with “neurological effects such as confusion, ataxia, tremor, paresthesias [itching], neuritis, and paralysis of peripheral and cranial nerves.” 28
If Dr. Swinyard is correct–– and there is no reason to doubt his long lists of signs and symptoms–– why does anyone sniff gasoline vapors? The answer becomes clear when we move from the confines of the pharmacological textbooks to the world of real children and young people. There it appears that gasoline sniffing, like numerous other common activities, makes you feel good (or better). One of the best descriptions of gasoline sniffing as it actually occurs was published in 1955 by the late A.E. (“Tajar”) Hamilton of the Hamilton School in Sheffield, Mass., in his classic account of children at work and play, Psychology and the Great God Fun. One day when the other children had gone on an expedition, Tajar Hamilton reports, he found a boy nicknamed Bullet with a can of gasoline and a gasoline-soaked rag. After a few preliminary questions, Tajar (with Bullet’s consent) turned on a recorder and preserved the dialogue for posterity.
Talar: Bullet, you said you would come up to the attic and tell me about the gasoline and the bicycles. Will you talk your story into the mike, just as you remember it?
Bullet: Well, I was awful mad when they said I couldn’t go on the trip. Sure I picked up the axe when Martha told me not to, but I put it back again. Then she said I couldn’t go, and Donnie was going, and when they all went I didn’t have anything to do to have fun and I began to get madder and madder all the time. It made me feel kind of sick to be so mad, so I went where they keep the gasoline can and I started to smell it.
Taiar: What made you want to smell gas, Bullet?
Bullet: Well, when you feel bad, you smell it and it makes you feel kind of hot and kind of drowsy, like you was floating through the air. It makes you feel sort of hot inside and different from the way you were before.
Taiar: And after you smelled the gas and felt better, what did you do?
Bullet: Then I began to feel mad again and had to do something, so I found a nail. It was an old rusty one, and I got a piece of board to push it with so it wouldn’t hurt my hand, and I made holes in all the tires except Donnie’s.
Taiar: Why not in Donnie’s?
Bullet: Because they’re solid and you can’t….
Taiar: And after you had punched all those holes what did you do?
Bullet: Mary hollered to come to dinner, so I went and we had hot dogs at the Council ring and then we had some games and then I didn’t feel so good, so I went and smelled the gas again.
Taiar: How long have you liked to smell gas, Bullet?
Bullet: Well, here at camp, ever since about two weeks after I came to the farm. I showed Donnie how to smell it. It makes you feel like you was in fairyland or somewhere else than where you are….
Tajar: Bullet, how come so much gas was spilled on the cellar floor?
Bullet: Oh, I just wanted to get more on my rag. If you have a lot it makes you sort of dream. It gets all dark and you see shooting stars in it, and this time I saw big flies flying in it. They were big and green and had white wings.
Taiar: And you feel better about yourself and about people after you have one of those dreams?
Bullet: Yep, until I begin to feel bad again, or get mad.
Tajar: Okay, Bullet, that’s all for now. Thank you for being truthful with me. 29
The solvents found in the other common household products listed above have effects on the whole quite similar to those Bullet described for gasoline. Whether these substances are addicting, or, indeed, what permanent effects if any result from recreational use, remains undetermined. In two bulletins of the National Clearinghouse for Poison Control Centers (a unit of the United States Public Health Service), one dated February-March 1962 and the other July-August 1964, Mr. Henry L. Verhulst and Dr. John J. Crotty reviewed both the older toxicological literature on organic solvents and recent laboratory studies on glue-sniffing in particular. The older literature was based on exposure among industrial workers who breathed solvent fumes eight hours a day, five days a week for months or years. The workers suffered adverse effects like those listed by Dr. Swinyard, as well as serious damage to the brain, liver, and kidneys.
Intoxication can be rapid, within one to five minutes. Depending on the method, the effects may last for minutes or several hours. Young people also sniff other substances such as glue, photocopier fluid, aerosols, paint thinner, cleaning and lighter fluids.
- are highly volatile and rapidly absorbed through the lungs
- act as central nervous system depressants, similar to alcohol
- may contribute to brain damage
Sniffing petrol is harmful
Effects of sniffing petrol
Short-term effects of sniffing petrol
- feeling ‘high’ or happy (euphoria)
- sensations of numbness
- feeling very light
- feeling not connected to surroundings (disassociation)
- giddiness, feeling friendly
- hallucinations, strange behaviours
- muscle weakness, loss of motor co-ordination, slowed reflexes
- slurred speech
- impaired judgement
- nausea, coughing, sneezing, increase in saliva
After sniffing, ‘hangovers’ and headache may last several days. There is some evidence that short-term petrol misuse does not cause permanent damage to the body.
Long-term effects of petrol sniffing
The following diagram outlines the long-term effects of petrol sniffing.
A range of serious problems can result from sniffing petrol, including pneumonia, asphyxiation, burns, coma, seizures, malnutrition, permanent brain damage, injuries and sudden death. Other problems associated with sniffing petrol include dog bites and getting lost (Gell 1995:17-20).
‘Sudden sniffing deaths’ have mostly been associated with sniffing aerosol sprays, cleaning and correction fluids and glues. It is believed these substances cause the heart to react abnormally, causing irregular heart beats (National Information Service on Drug Abuse 1985:52-53).
Sniffing in pregnancy
It has been found that young women who have sniffed petrol often stop when they become pregnant. Even if a woman has stopped, she may have a smaller baby and may need additional health care during and after the pregnancy. There is some evidence of birth defects and disabilities in babies born to women who sniffed petrol (Lipson 1984:40).
Regular use of inhalants leads to tolerance. Withdrawal symptoms may include chills, headaches, abdominal pains, muscular cramps and hallucinations (National Information Service on Drug Abuse 1985:14).
My Note –
So, apparently people’s lives are not worth a $30 gas mask and some gloves and eye goggles to protect them from harm as afar as OSHA, the EPA, BP and the state governments are concerned. And, the health damages from petroleum and gasoline do not count when an oil company covers the Gulf of Mexico with it or an employer subjects their employees to it but in any other circumstance, it is dangerous with short-term and long term health consequences including permanent health damages.
Those respirators, (which they could probably get for $6 each wholesale in the trainload lot needed) could’ve been bought from the first and given to everyone but now we are given nothing but misinformation, run-arounds and questionable interpretations that are misleading such as the published info from the EPA saying that air, water, sediments are all safe with no sign of the crude oil that is known to be in it and offers information collected thirteen days ago as evidence of the safety when things are more dire today. That’s like saying the methane levels yesterday in a mine that were safe at the time mean that today’s methane explosion in the mine didn’t happen because the levels couldn’t have been high enough – but obviously they were.
And to hear Dr. Sanjay Gupta say on CNN, that it is just so hard to link cause and effect to know if these chemicals of one kind or another are causing illness – is bullshit. Every container of gasoline, petroleum derivatives, kerosene, diesel fuel, jet fuel, motor oil, benzene, ethylbenzene and everything else that comes from petroleum lists known hazards, explains the safety precautions to take, and a long list of health hazards and health damages have already been discovered without any doubt whatsoever.
How did they fail to connect the two when there are known cause and effects from petroleum that have been studied comprehensively for over a hundred years? How is that possible? This isn’t a rhetorical argument. When someone is sniffing gasoline or petroleum products recreationally – there is no problem finding the health risks directly associated with it including the long-term damages that happen to the brain, blood chemistry, heart, lungs, bone marrow, joints, hormones, lymph system, kidneys, liver, cell damage and respiratory system damage.
So, why is it when the OSHA and EPA want the oil industry to appear to have filled the ocean with something of no consequence or harm – suddenly there is “no way to find cause and effect” – I don’t believe that. And I don’t believe that history or the government is going to be held without responsibility for failing to protect people from it with a simple respirator and accurate information made available to people in a timely manner.
You don’t stand in front of a volcano waiting for a lahar or gases exploding from the volcano sure to overtake you and your home and your community and your family. It doesn’t matter how long your family has been living there – when a danger of magnitude is there – you leave to safety. No home, no house, no location, no history in that place is worth the loss of lives, the loss of health and well-being, the loss of everything truly valuable that matters.
And, as I’ve listened to Republicans and others who have been blasting this thought everywhere – that when there is an airplane accident, we don’t stop all the airplanes – I’ve been thinking and thinking and thinking – how could they be so stupid?
When there is an air accident and it turns out that the same thing which brought that plane down is also known to be likely wrong with all of the planes, we don’t put them back into the air until we make them safe. And, none of the people saying otherwise would get on any of those planes known to have the same problem wrong with it.
So, to say that shit is nonsense. Eleven men died. The biggest oil disaster in the history of this country and quite possibly in the history of mankind across the entire earth that will last long into the next forty years or more is taking place right now. And, that happened because it wasn’t safe and the others out there drilling – however many thousands there are in every coastal waters – deepwater offshore and shallow, on land, on permafrost, on whatever sea is waiting to be the next one – and any one of them could have the same thing happen without any recourse, just as this one has happened. That is not okay.
What is petrol?
Petrol comes from crude oil and is a mixture of organic hydrocarbons like toluene and benzene. These hydrocarbons are quickly absorbed by the body and the brain and make sniffers feel high. Many of the other volatile substances that people sniff, like glue and paint, contain one or more of these hydrocarbons. Different hydrocarbons may have slightly different effects but petrol is a complex mix of many different hydrocarbons and the combination varies considerably between different sources of petrol. This makes it difficult to understand exactly how the different chemicals in petrol contribute to its health effects.
People inhale through the mouth or nose using either a cloth soaked in petrol or a small container filled with petrol. Petrol goes from the lungs to the bloodstream and then into the brain. There it slows down brain activity and depresses the central nervous system in a similar way to alcohol. Within seconds the person can feel euphoric, relaxed, dizzy, numb and light. They may also experience:
- increased libido
- lack of coordination, staggering
- slurred speech
- coughing, wheezing
- slow reflexes
They may look like someone who is drunk on alcohol but act a bit more strangely. Sometimes you can smell the strong odour of petrol on them. These effects can last up to an hour, and longer if they keep sniffing. In serious cases people may have fits.
It is possible to die from sniffing the first time because the petrol is taking the place of oxygen in the blood and not enough oxygen is being taken to the brain. People have died this way from sniffing with a jumper or blanket around their head because it stops oxygen getting to the lungs.
People have died from doing exercise like running or playing football straight after sniffing. The combined stress of sniffing and exercise put too much pressure on the heart.
Many people who sniff have suffered serious burns or death because the petrol caught fire. Sniffing around any flames or fire is very dangerous.
The list of health problems caused by sniffing is enormous. The poisonous chemicals in petrol gradually damage the brain, the heart, the lungs, the immune system, the liver and kidneys. The longer a person sniffs, the worse they damage these organs.
Over the first few years of sniffing petrol, people will begin to show signs of brain damage that will affect their ability to think clearly, concentrate, remember things, learn new things and solve problems. If the sniffing continues, the part of the brain that controls movement and balance gets damaged and the person can’t walk and talk properly. Many sniffers end up in a wheelchair with permanent brain damage. Some of the brain damage caused by sniffing can repair itself if the person stops sniffing, but the longer they sniff, the less chance there is that the brain will get better.
Sniffing while pregnant can cause birth defects such as physical and intellectual disabilities and may also stop the brain from developing properly.
Still there is no healthy way to sniff. Sniffing causes serious health problems and can kill you.
This review will introduce petrol (gasoline) sniffing as a specific form of substance abuse. Petrol sniffing is associated with dysfunctions that range in severity from subtle cognitive impairment to encephalopathy and death, and these are discussed with respect to their specific neurological and cognitive bases. Morbidity and mortality rates will also be presented that suggest severe central nervous system damage occurs as a result of petrol sniffing. The neuropharmacological actions of tetraethyl lead and volatile hydrocarbons, the components within petrol, and their contributions to the effects of sniffing petrol are investigated. Reports of human occupational or recreational exposure to either lead additives or volatile hydrocarbons (i.e. inhalants) have provided evidence of the neurological and cognitive effects that may also occur with petrol sniffing. Petrol sniffing causes a progressive decline of cognitive function that eventually leads to permanent neurological changes.
Author Keywords: Petrol; Gasoline; Sniffing; Petrol sniffers; Tetraethyl lead; Volatile hydrocarbons; Inhalants; Cognitive; Neurological; Encephalopathy; Ataxia; Cerebellum; White matter
- 2. Petrol as a substance of abuse
- 2.1. The neurotoxic components of petrol
- 2.2. Preferred types of petrol
- 2.3. The effect of reducing the availability of leaded petrol
- 2.4. Chelation therapy
- 2.5. Blood lead and hydrocarbon levels in petrol sniffers
- 3. Effects of petrol sniffing on the CNS
- 3.1. Acute effects of petrol intoxication
- 3.2. Petrol sniffers encephalopathy
- 3.3. CNS changes with chronic petrol abuse
- 3.4. Evidence for progressive degeneration and reversibility of neurobehavioural function with chronic petrol sniffing
- 4. Effects of exposure to lead/hydrocarbons on the CNS
- 5. Summary
Corresponding author. Address: Neurophysiology and Neurovisual Research Unit, Mental Health Research Institute of Victoria, Parkville, Vic. 3052, Australia. Tel.: +61-3-9388-1633; fax: +61-3-9387-5061; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
my note –
Offered from the Deepwater Horizon Incident site for the Gulf of Mexico – note the date that is for today’s interpretation of the risks, air quality and water quality – other than the fact today is June 13, 2010 and the problem has expanded exponentially – the things offered were incorrect in the first place.
DATE: May 26, 2010 18:17:58 CST
Health and Safety
My Note –
Above map shows where the oil was when those advisories above were created and when the samples were taken by EPA which are being used to say the water and air is clean when those samples were tested on June 1, 2010.
That’s not the way it is now.
And, you can’t get off a boat surrounded by petroleum crude oil fumes at a level immediately above the surface of the ocean covered in petroleum where you’ve been for several hours to go get some fresh air right quick. When those fumes are brought onshore by winds, there is no where to go to get fresh air.
4,000 places where accidents and disasters have been occurring – incidents from small to large have occurred and where any one of them – even one can make a disaster of the magnitude as the Deepwater Horizon has done which overtakes every other industry and economic opportunity, every other habitable opportunity for people and marine animals and can destroy the entire place for years and years and years to come.
This is no small insignificant thing. Safety and profits must go hand in hand with equal importance, or profits second and safety first. There isn’t another choice that can work, that’s where the real mistake was made on the BP drill operation Deepwater Horizon that yielded this disaster.
Benzene – (from wikipedia)
Benzene exposure has serious health effects. Outdoor air may contain low levels of benzene from tobacco smoke, wood smoke, automobile service stations, the transfer of gasoline, exhaust from motor vehicles, and industrial emissions. Vapors from products that contain benzene, such as glues, paints, furniture wax, and detergents, can also be a source of exposure, although many of these have been modified or reformulated since the late 1970s to eliminate or reduce the benzene content. Air around hazardous waste sites or gas stations may contain higher levels of benzene.
The short term breathing of high levels of benzene can result in death, while low levels can cause drowsiness, dizziness, rapid heart rate, headaches, tremors, confusion, and unconsciousness. Eating or drinking foods containing high levels of benzene can cause vomiting, irritation of the stomach, dizziness, sleepiness, convulsions, and death.
The major effects of benzene are manifested via chronic (long-term) exposure through the blood. Benzene damages the bone marrow and can cause a decrease in red blood cells, leading to anemia. It can also cause excessive bleeding and depress the immune system, increasing the chance of infection. Benzene causes leukemia and is associated with other blood cancers and pre-cancers of the blood.
Human exposure to benzene is a global health problem. Benzene targets liver, kidney, lung, heart and the brain and can cause DNA strand breaks, chromosomal damage etc. Benzene causes cancer in both animals and humans. Benzene was first reported to induce cancer in humans in the 1920s. The chemical industry claims it wasn’t until 1979 that the cancer-inducing properties were determined “conclusively” in humans, despite many references to this fact in the medical literature. Industry exploited this “discrepancy” and tried to discredit animal studies which showed benzene caused cancer, saying that they weren’t relevant to humans. Benzene has been shown to cause cancer in both sexes of multiple species of laboratory animals exposed via various routes.
Some women who breathed high levels of benzene for many months had irregular menstrual periods and a decrease in the size of their ovaries. It is not known whether benzene exposure affects the developing fetus in pregnant women or fertility in men.
Animal studies have shown low birth weights, delayed bone formation, and bone marrow damage when pregnant animals breathed benzene.
Benzene has been connected to a rare form of kidney cancer in two separate studies, one involving tank truck drivers, and the other involving seamen on tanker vessels, both carrying benzene-laden chemicals.
The US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) classifies benzene as a human carcinogen. Long-term exposure to excessive levels of benzene in the air causes leukemia, a potentially fatal cancer of the blood-forming organs, in susceptible individuals. In particular, Acute myeloid leukemia or acute non-lymphocytic leukaemia (AML & ANLL) is not disputed to be caused by benzene.
Several tests can determine exposure to benzene. There is a test for measuring benzene in the breath; this test must be done shortly after exposure. Benzene can also be measured in the blood; however, because benzene disappears rapidly from the blood, measurements are accurate only for extremely recent exposures. Benzene exposure should always be minimized.
In the body, benzene is metabolized. Certain metabolites, such as trans,trans-muconic acid can be measured in the urine. However, this test must be done shortly after exposure and is not a reliable indicator of benzene exposure, since the same metabolites may be present in urine from other sources.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency has set the maximum permissible level of benzene in drinking water at 0.005 milligrams per liter (0.005 mg/L). The EPA requires that spills or accidental releases into the environment of 10 pounds (4.5 kg) or more of benzene be reported to the EPA.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set a permissible exposure limit of 1 part of benzene per million parts of air (1 ppm) in the workplace during an 8-hour workday, 40-hour workweek. The short term exposure limit for airborne benzene is 5 ppm for 15 minutes.
In recent history there have been many examples of the harmful health effects of benzene and its derivatives. Toxic Oil Syndrome caused localised immune-suppression in Madrid in 1981 from people ingesting anilide-contaminated rapeseed oil. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome has also been correlated with people who eat “denatured” food that use solvents to remove fat or contain benzoic acid but causality is unproven.
Workers in various industries that make or use benzene may be at risk for being exposed to high levels of this carcinogenic chemical. Industries that involve the use of benzene include the rubber industry, oil refineries, chemical plants, shoe manufacturers, and gasoline-related industries. In 1987, OSHA estimated that about 237,000 workers in the United States were potentially exposed to benzene, but it is not known if this number has substantially changed since then.
Water and soil contamination are important pathways of concern for transmission of benzene contact. In the U.S. alone there are approximately 100,000 different sites which have benzene soil or groundwater contamination. In 2005, the water supply to the city of Harbin in China with a population of almost nine million people, was cut off because of a major benzene exposure. Benzene leaked into the Songhua River, which supplies drinking water to the city, after an explosion at a China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) factory in the city of Jilin on 13 November.
In March 2006, the official Food Standards Agency in Britain conducted a survey of 150 brands of soft drinks. It found that four contained benzene levels above World Health Organization limits. The affected batches were removed from sale. (See also benzene in soft drinks).
- International Chemical Safety Card 0015
- USEPA Summary of Benzene Toxicity
- NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards
- CID 241 from PubChem
- Dept. of Health and Human Services: TR-289: Toxicology and Carcinogenesis Studies of Benzene
- Video Podcast of Sir John Cadogan giving a lecture on Benzene since Faraday, in 1991
- Substance profile
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: ChemIDplus – Benzene
- NLM Hazardous Substances Databank – Benzene